Ascent

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She paused, raising her eyes to the crest of the hill above her. You’re almost there, she told herself as she reached for her water bottle and took a swig. You got this. Her legs had already traversed several stages on this hike – stretching, tired, sore, shaky, ready to collapse, and finally, stronger. She could almost feel the muscles tearing and healing and building as she went. It made her feel tough, as if she could handle anything. As though it didn’t matter if she was the last person on earth, or the only person on the mountain.

Her heart was another matter. It pounded in her chest like she’d just run a marathon while being chased by a bear. Too fast, too hard, but what worried her was the erratic unsteadiness of it. As far as a rhythm, she was pretty sure it was skittering between a bouncy reggae tune, a pounding rap, and the wild pulse of thrash metal. All fine for listening to; maybe not such a good thing for a heart rate.

She took a deep breath. Another one. In-two-three, out-two-three. Willed her body to calm, heart to slow. Practiced some learned-long-ago relaxation techniques. Tried not to think how ridiculous it was that this little hike was so difficult for her. The important thing was that she was doing it. She was facing the challenges she set for herself, overcoming all of the excuses and reasons for holding back.

She had spent too many years in the shadows. Too many days watching from the sidelines, being the cheerleader. She loved the encouraging, the guiding, the helping. She was good at it. But what she’d only partially grasped was that when you constantly encourage others to follow their dreams, eventually you get left behind.

But now.

This was her time. Her turn to explore. To grow, find her horizons. Most of all, to stop holding back.

She turned to look back at the trail she’d been following. The mountain dropped away before her, river cutting a valley through the hills. Trees danced in the breeze that cooled her skin. Snow blazed the tops of the range. A blue sky caressed the horizon, greens and grays and browns of the forest mixing in a grand palette of wild, untamable, glorious nature.

Where she had been was breathtaking.

Tears watered the landscape for a moment, and she grinned in exultation at the sheer magnificence of life and the world. Yes, the trail had been hard sometimes. Life had been hard. There were moments that she wondered what had possessed her to take it at all. But this – this majestic view of her journey so far was definitely worth it. It was more incredible than anything she could have imagined.

A prayer of thanks rose within her.

She took another deep breath, another swig of water, trying to hold the picture in her mind to look back on later. Holding onto the satisfaction of love feely given and obstacles overcome. So many memories to cherish.

She turned back up the trail. Her heart was steady now. She was ready.

There was further to go, and the view would be even better up ahead.

-KJ Roe

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Let Go

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Let go of your mistakes
Learn from them,
But don’t let them hold you.
Don’t grip them in your hand
And your heart, endlessly
Limiting yourself with their existence.
Recognize them, learn from them,
Then rise up out of the ashes
And fly like you were meant to.

-KJ Roe

Epitaph

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When I die,

Shed tears if you must

Let them wash

The scales from your eyes

Reveal the light

See all the little

Hidden things

That make the world beautiful

 

When I’m gone

Shout and wail if it helps

Let it crescendo

Into songs of life and movement

Raise your arms

Free your feet in

 

Dances

To secret music

That lift the soul

Irresistibly

 

When I pass

Grow though the grief

Let it teach you to

 

Cherish

 

Moments

Lay bare your heart

Act with kindness

 

Let love live as my legacy

 

-KJ Roe

 

[not] alone

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If you know me, you know I try to be considerate of everyone I meet. If you really know me, you know I try to find beauty and joy in each day.

And if you really, really know me, you know I get nervous around people I don’t know, anxious with confrontation, and that I struggle with my own sense of self-worth. As in, really struggle. That there are more days than I’d like to admit when I wonder what my purpose is for being here.

I’ve been working on opening up more about this, on putting a name to the shadow as a means of identifying it as just that – a shadow that can be banished by the light.

In admitting my own fears, what I’ve found is that there are so many of us out there. So many of us who are uncertain, and maybe a little scared, and maybe a little sad, and fighting demons of loneliness and self-doubt.

In fact, based on the responses I’ve had, I’d venture to say that it may even be a large percentage of us.

By opening up about my own uncertainties, other people have felt more comfortable talking about theirs.

And guess what?

There are lots of us.

Which means two things.

First, there is something wrong with the messages we, as a society, give to each other about vulnerability and sadness.

We’re not “supposed to” be scared or lonely or anxious; we’re “supposed to” be tough, and smart, and happy, and self-confident, and completely comfortable both in a crowd and being alone – and so we all cover up our “weaknesses.” Which only compounds the impression of being the only one struggling with these thoughts and emotions.

Second, that we are not alone. So many of our friends and loved ones often feel the same way, but we’re all hiding it, trying to be tough.

Often, people say that the hardest thing is feeling so alone, like there is no one out there who feels the way they do, who understands what they are going through. But so many of us feel that way.

Your “alone” might feel different than my “alone,” but for both of us, it can be soul-wrenchingly aching, bone-deep painful, and sometimes creates a curtain of bleakness that shrouds the view of the future. It can make it extremely difficult to look forward to the coming days.

But it’s lying.

There is hope in the future.

There is light in your life.

There is joy yet to be had.

I saw a challenge in which a person identifies one word to focus on, one word to try to live for this year. If there is a word that resonates with you, that helps you meet the challenge of another day, I encourage you to focus on that. Let it become your mantra. Let it be your reminder, when things get hard, that you are not alone, that you are stronger, and that you will make it through. Post it on your bathroom mirror and on your car visor and on whatever you look at at work. Flood your environment with it to continually lift you.

If there is not a word that helps you, I invite you to share the word I’ve chosen:

Believe.

Believe in your own worth.

Believe in the beauty of your unique soul.

Believe in the unfathomable greatness of your heart.

Believe in the very real magic and value of your presence.

Believe in the brilliant light that is your future.

Believe that you are never alone, no matter what the shadows might try to tell you.

And believe that you, one-and-only, amazing you – believe that you have a purpose and a reason for being here.

May you have a beautiful and blessed 2018.

-KJ Roe

 

 

This Is Why

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Autumn lake – PC KJ Roe

Dear Friends and Family who have been subjected to the mess that is my car,

This is why. Why there is always a stash of life vests, and paddles, and extra clothes, and fishing gear, or winter gear, and snow shoes, and extra gloves, and sleeping bags. Why there’s always a book bag of notebooks, pens, pencils, and books.

Because, after a stressful day at work, I can be here. Here, floating between earth and sky, skimming along the tops of reflected clouds, nature’s quiet voice a balm to my mind. Here, separated briefly from daily cares, surrounded by reminders of the quietness of creation. Here, where the immensity of this beauty puts perspective to the smallness of my problems.

This is why, when you see me post pictures or hear me talk about my weekend, you rarely hear about me cleaning and doing chores. They happen (perhaps a bit less often than they “should”), but they are not priority.

You see, I’ve lost enough to know better. I’ve lost enough people in my life to know you don’t take loved ones for granted. You don’t miss an opportunity to say I love you or to give a kiss or a hug.

I’ve seen enough ugliness and hatefulness to appreciate every bit of beauty I can find.

And I’ve lived through just enough heartache to know that you must seek peace, and hold it when you find it.

None of it is guaranteed. Life is time-limited. Relationships, experiences, and adventures are limited by that time. So, given a sunny day, a good snowfall, a few moments with someone I care about, I hope I always choose to live in the moment. I hope I choose beauty.

I hope I live up to life.

-KJ Roe

Finite

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This.

Conversing with the person across the table, laughing, smiling. Sharing these moments that I know are all too fleeting. Feeling the joy glowing inside each breath, the happiness of enjoying this gift of time. Hoping that it lasts, hoping that there are thousands more days like this, and wishing there was no end to our shared companionship.

But I know time is finite. I know you are growing and changing, moving towards the path you will take. These sparkling moments are too few for me, as you stretch impatiently towards adulthood and independence. I watch the glow in your eyes, the curve of your smile, and see all at once the baby you were and the hint of the woman you will become. I hold it close inside, storing up the memories for when you join your siblings out in the world. I cherish the times you let me into your world, chattering away about friends and art and videos and games I only partially understand.

This life is too short for me. Too soon, you will be on your own, making your way with your own special style, and I will be relegated to cheering section and occasional life consultant. You will be taking your own path, full of the adventure and creativity that fills your soul.

I know time has a limit, like this earth we stand on. I know the excitement of seeing you “become” is lined with bittersweet. But my hopes and my love for you are as unlimited as the universe. And I know that, like the stars, you will shine.

-KJ Roe

Le Cafe

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All alone
As she sits in the corner
Steam rising from a cup
Like the
Conversations swirling through the air,
Weaving around and past
Invisible fences,
Marking the spaces
That don’t fit
And the holes unfilled.
Music lifts with gentle caress,
Notes of friendship
And melodies of memories
Soothing storms hidden;
Invisible worlds and tidepool dreams,
Reveries of ethereal visions
Ephemeral shadows behind her eyes,
Like the
Steam rising from a cup
As she sits in the corner
All alone.

-KJ Roe